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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 25, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 21
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
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2012 summer movie preview, part II
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

Did you know The Avengers has made more than a billion dollars worldwide in only 19 days of release? Pretty crazy, I know. Can any of the big-budget wonders scheduled for release during July and August do the same? The chances of that happening rest somewhere between incredibly slim and virtually none, which is saying something when you consider that 2012's most anticipated motion picture, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, the capper to his Batman trilogy, goes into wide release July 20. If any movie has the chance to produce similar box-office results it's that one, although even with Imax surcharges I think it's unlikely.

But Nolan's opus isn't the only reason to get excited about the last two months of the Summer Movie silly season. Plenty of titles both big and small are worthy of letting one's anticipatory giddiness run wild. As of now, here's what's scheduled to hit Seattle theaters in July and August. Release dates are, as always, subject to change.

July 3
The Amazing Spider-Man - It's a long way from (500) Days of Summer, but director Marc Webb tries to reinvigorate the Marvel Comics stalwart, rebooting the series only five years after the last installment web-slung its way into theaters.

July 5
Katy Perry: Part of Me - A 3D Katy Perry concert documentary. Yeah, I wasn't clamoring for this one either - and I kinda like her music.

July 6
A Cat in Paris - Last year's surprise nominee for Best Animated Film finally makes its domestic, non-festival debut. It's awesome. Go see it.

Savages - Oliver Stone gets down and dirty with an adaptation of Don Winslow's bestseller about a pair of smalltime pot growers who suddenly find themselves at war with a ruthless Mexican drug cartel when their mutual girlfriend is kidnapped.

To Rome With Love - Woody Allen's latest finds him trotting through Italy with an all-star cast (including Penélope Cruz, Ellen Page, Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Judy Davis, and Roberto Benigni) chronicling a trio of romantic misadventures on the cobblestone streets of Rome.

July 13
Beasts of the Southern Wild - This one is borderline indescribable, but considering the reactions coming out of Sundance and the fact that it's gotten a plum showcase at this year's Cannes Film Festival, I'm not kidding when I say it's more or less at the top of my summertime must-see list. What's it about? Why ruin the surprise - the title pretty much says it all.

Elena - Russian import involving a broken marriage, class alienation, and a mysterious inheritance that showcases esteemed director Andrei Zvyagintsev (The Return) at very top of his game. Twisty and twisted, this is a small-scale gem not easily forgotten.

Ice Age: Continental Drift - The gang's all here as Manny, Diego, Sid, and all the rest find themselves set adrift upon a wayward iceberg and forced to battle new dangers and unforeseen obstacles they previously never could have imagined. In other news, it's becoming quite apparent this prehistoric well is running close to dry.

Take This Waltz - Actress-turned-director Sarah Polley's (Away From Her) latest chronicles the apparent downfall of a seemingly happily married young woman (Michelle Williams) who suddenly finds herself falling in love with the goofy artist (Seth Rogen) who's recently moved in next door.

Ted - Mark Wahlberg finds dealing with a walking/talking teddy bear as an adult is far less fun than it was when he wished for it to happen as a child. Seth MacFarlane fans take note, this R-rated comedy goes places Family Guy only wishes it could.

July 20
The Dark Knight Rises - As the ads have stated, this is the final chapter in Christopher Nolan's Bruce Wayne saga, the film picking up eight years after his last adventure. Catwoman is here and so is Bane, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard round things out as a pair of characters of which little to almost nothing is known.

Grassroots - A political satire all Seattle residents will want to see - the untold story of the monorail vote (and revote, and revote, and revote) mixed with the saga of a City Council candidate trying to get his voice heard to virtually no avail. Directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal (Losing Isaiah) and based on Phil Campbell's best-selling book.

Trishna - Michael Winterbottom (A Mighty Heart) tackles Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles, setting the action in India and attempting to give it new resonance for the modern age. Saw this at a SIFF press screening. It's good, but never quite strikes the heartbreaking emotional chord it needs to for it to completely resonate.

July 25
Ruby Sparks - Paul Dano as a writer who, lonely and without a girlfriend, wills his latest literary creation into real-life existence (because, you know, that's always a good idea).

July 27
Easy Money - Swedish import about drug runners and the cartels that own them. The Killing and future RoboCop remake star Joel Kinnaman is the central figure portraying a man out to make a few quick bucks, who suddenly finds himself way over his head.

Step Up Revolution - The dance dance revolution continues in this fourth installment, set in Florida, where a group of street performers try to stop a greedy developer from transforming their stomping grounds into a posh resort.

The Watch - Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill as a group of suburban dads who start a neighborhood watch patrol and suddenly find themselves battling an alien invasion. Hopefully there won't be any hoodies.

August 3 Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry - Documentary about Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei; stunning, arguably an early frontrunner for Best Documentary Feature at next year's Academy Awards.

The Bourne Legacy - Matt Damon may be gone, but his story continues with Jeremy Renner picking things up as another Treadstone agent thrust into a massive conspiracy seemingly beyond his control. Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton co-star, while Albert Finney, Joan Allen, David Strathairn, and Oscar Isaac all return to help fill in the blanks.

Dark Horse - Caustic director Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse, Life During Wartime) returns with an innocent-sounding romance that undoubtedly will be anything but. Selma Blair, Justin Bartha, Mia Farrow, and Christopher Walken star.

Total Recall - The Philip K. Dick short story, adapted back in 1990 by Paul Verhoeven with Arnold Schwarzenegger starring, is remade by Underworld auteur Len Wiseman with Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Ethan Hawke, Bryan Cranston, and Bill Nighy in the central roles.

August 10 The Campaign - Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis battle it out as two North Carolina politicians with an eye on the White House.

Hope Springs - Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as a couple going to counselor Steve Carell for advice after three-plus decades of marriage. The Devil Wears Prada director David Frankel orchestrates the comedic mayhem.

August 17 The Expendables 2 - Sylvester Stallone once again rounds up his gang of B-movie all-stars for a second adventure. Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger return, with Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme also getting in on the bullet-riddled action.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green - Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton as a married couple wishing for a child, who place their dreams of their hoped-for offspring in a box they bury in the backyard. When he's born, magic follows.

ParaNorman - Stop-motion animated fable about a boy who can speak to the dead, and who must use all his supernatural powers to save his town from an onslaught of ghouls, ghosts, and zombies.

Sparkle - Remake of the 1976 musical starring the late Whitney Houston in her final role. Former American Idol winner Jordin Sparks co-stars as an up-and-coming singing sensation Houston is forced to take under her wing.

August 24 The Apparition - A college experiment unleashes a supernatural demon intent on killing all in its path.

Hit & Run - Getaway driver Dax Shepard is forced to go on the run with his girlfriend (Kristen Bell) in tow when bad guy Bradley Cooper shows up on his doorstep demanding the money from their last bank robbery. Much vehicular mayhem ensues.

Premium Rush - Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a New York bicycle messenger who inadvertently ends up with a package that a whole range of villains want to get their hands on. No, it isn't a remake of the Kevin Bacon turkey Quicksilver, but you'd be forgiven for thinking so.

August 29 Lawless - John Hillcoat follows up The Road with a story about Depression-era bootleggers and the authorities out to make an example of them. This film is debuting at the Cannes Film Festival and is one of my most eagerly anticipated of 2012.

August 31 The Possession - Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick as recently divorced parents who find themselves reunited when their daughter comes into possession of a mysterious wooden box containing the soul of a demon. Sam Raimi produces.

2012 Summer Movie Preview - Part I
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

With the release of The Avengers last Friday and its record-breaking $200-million haul, it's clear that the Summer Movie Season has begun with a very large bang. If bigger, louder, shinier, and more expensive is your cup of tea, Hollywood has boiled up a steamy hot brew specifically for you.

Without further ado, here are the films and events expected to grace Seattle-area theatres during May and June. As always, release dates are subject to change, so don't be surprised if some of what's mentioned here doesn't appear exactly as scheduled.

May 11
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) brings together a cast of elder heavy hitters (Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith) in a story of British retirees in India who are somewhat tricked into checking into a rundown hotel run by Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel and have their lives forever changed as a result.

The Cup - Based-on-fact sports drama concerning the 2002 Melbourne Cup horse race, directed by Simon Wincer of Free Willy fame. He also made the great Quigley Down Under and, sadly, this movie ain't no Quigley, holding far more in common with the aforementioned melodramatic whale tale.

Girl in Progress - Tale of a young girl whose single mother (Eva Mendes) is dealing with a variety of problems, and who finds inspiration in the coming-of-age stories she's forced to read for school.

Dark Shadows - Tim Burton's take on the popular, long-running 1960s gothic soap opera looks like an inspired (or potentially absurd) amalgamation of his own Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, and Sweeney Todd. Personally, I can't wait to give it a look, and I'm guessing many of you feel the same way.

May 16
The Dictator - Sacha Baron Cohen returns as a Middle Eastern dictator who finds himself stripped of his identity and power after a trip to New York City goes horribly wrong. Didn't have high hopes for this but recent trailers and festival buzz have me reconsidering.

May 17 - June 10
2012 Seattle International Film Festival - 25 days of movie-going madness featuring the local debuts of Pixar's Brave, Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, and Lynn Shelton's Your Sister's Sister, the latter the Opening Night attraction and easily the best SIFF has offered up in that slot since 2009's In the Loop.

May 18
Battleship - Peter Berg's naval adventure based on the popular board game features an alien invasion, Liam Neeson barking orders, and pop star Rihanna firing a very large gun.

Bernie - Director Richard Linklater (Before Sunset) mixes documentary with docudrama in this true-crime account of a Texas mortician's (Jack Black) friendship with, and eventual murder of, a well-to-do harpy (Shirley MacLaine) whom he then goes to great lengths to convince everyone is still alive.

Headhunters - Awesome Scandinavian import about a corporate headhunter who finds himself over his head when he gets involved in the heist of a valuable painting owned by a vicious ex-mercenary. Funny, clever, violent, and suspenseful, this film has it all and deserves to be seen by a wide audience.

Mansome - Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) documentary about masculinity in the 21st century.

What to Expect When You're Expecting - All-star production based on the Heidi Murkoff best-seller directed by Kirk Jones (Nanny McPhee, Everybody's Fine) chronicling five variously interconnected couples going through the highs and lows of having a baby. While the behind-the-scenes pedigree is solid, the trailer is beyond dreadful, and I can't say I'm holding my breath.

May 25
4:44 Last Day on Earth - End-of-the-world sexual melodrama directed by Abel Ferrara (Bad Lieutenant) and starring Willem Dafoe. To call it depressing would be a disservice to every other depressing film ever made, as I don't think there's a word dark, distressing, and nihilistic enough to fully describe this motion picture in suitable detail.

Chernobyl Diaries - Six young American tourists looking for an extreme adventure while on holiday in Russia decide to tour Chernobyl. As you might suspect, this isn't a very good idea.

First Position - Ballet documentary chronicling a group of young dancers as they prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix.

The Intouchables - International favorite concerning a French millionaire who becomes a paraplegic in a paragliding accident, who hires a young man from the Parisian projects to be his caretaker.

Men in Black 3 - Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, and director Barry Sonnenfeld return with a third, tongue-in-cheek interstellar adventure, this time sending Agent J to the past to unlock a secret only young Agent K (Josh Brolin) knows and that holds the secret to preventing alien annihilation back in the future.

June 1
For Greater Glory - A chronicle of the Cristeros War (1926-29) in Mexico starring Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria, Peter O'Toole, Bruce McGill, and Maria Full of Grace Academy Award nominee Catalina Sandino Moreno in her first major role in almost eight years.

The Manzanar Fishing Club - Documentary about WWII Japanese internment camps here in the United States, chronicling the lives of those who secretly made their way under the wires to fish for trout in the waters of the Eastern Sierra.

Piranha 3DD - More blood. More gore. More piranha. And, as I'm sure you've already guessed, more DDs.

Snow White and the Huntsman - Second Snow White adventure of the year, this one a more aggressively PG-13 adventure pitting Twilight heartbreaker Kristen Stewart against Young Adult and Monster scene-stealer Charlize Theron.

Tonight You're Mine - Director David Mackenzie's (Perfect Sense, Young Adam) latest concerns two feuding rock stars who find themselves inadvertently handcuffed together during a 24-hour rock concert where both are scheduled to perform. Sadly, this one never lives up to its potential, the whole thing petering out long before the exceedingly obvious final scenes.

June 8
Lola Versus - The great Greta Gerwig in the story of a young woman about to turn 30 who enlists her friends to help buck up her spirits due to her total inability to find romantic happiness.

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted - The penguins are back, and that's really all I care about. The rest of the animals can go back and sit quietly in their cages.

Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson's (Rushmore, The Fantastic Mr. Fox) latest will open the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and will have its local premiere during SIFF, and as far as I'm concerned nothing else needs to be said.

Peace, Love & Misunderstanding - Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy) returns with this saga of an uptight NYC mother (Catherine Keener) who takes her two teenage children to visit their unconventional hippie grandmother (Jane Fonda) at her upstate farm. Hilarity supposedly ensues (but I'm not holding my breath).

Prometheus - Heard about this one? Seen a trailer or two? Maybe one of the numerous featurettes littering the Internet? Excited? Of course you are. Ridley Scott's return to the world of Alien is arguably the most anticipated film of the entire summer (Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises notwithstanding).

Safety Not Guaranteed - Not going to say anything about this one, not a single word. All I will do is proclaim it awesome and urge everyone, everywhere, to see it at their first opportunity.

June 15
Hysteria - A comedy about the invention of the vibrator, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, and as far as descriptions go I think that just about does it.

Last Call at the Oasis - Documentary on the world's water crisis featuring interviews with Erin Brockovich-Ellis. Maybe you've heard of her?

Rock of Ages - Musical filled with 1980s rock classics sung by the likes of Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Julianne Hough, Will Forte, and Malin Akerman. Oh. Yeah. That's right. It also has some guy named Tom Cruise playing an aging, usually shirtless megastar in the Freddie Mercury-meets-Joe Elliott-meets-Bret Michaels vein, something I embarrassingly have to see for myself.

That's My Boy - Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg team up for an R-rated comedy, a concept which either has you buying tickets right this second or running screaming in the opposite direction.

Turn Me On, Dammit! - Acclaimed Norwegian coming-of-age import concerning the sexual awakening of a 15-year-old girl whose daydreams and fantasies have a life of their own.

Your Sister's Sister - Fantastic comedy from Humpday auteur Lynn Shelton concerning an absurd romantic triangle revolving around depressed everyman Mark Duplass, his sexy best friend Emily Blunt, and her Lesbian older sister Rosemarie DeWitt. Rarely goes where you expect it to, and that's a very good thing indeed.

June 22
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - I have nothing to say about this historical meandering based on the popular graphic novel of the same name, other than it looks like the second coming of Van Helsing. That is not a compliment.

Brave - Pixar's latest involving a Scottish lass who defies eons of custom to break free and become her own woman. This is the one movie of the entire summer I cannot wait to see (even more so than Prometheus or The Dark Knight Rises).

I Wish - Japanese import about two adolescent brothers separated by their parents' divorce, one of whom believes a new bullet train will produce a miracle bringing them all back together as a family.

Seeking a Friend at the End of the World - Steve Carell and Keira Knightley are two lost souls who bond on a road trip to reunite him with his high-school sweetheart - as an asteroid approaches the earth.

Where Do We Go Now? - Lebanese import concerning a group of driven women looking to ease tensions between the Christians and Muslims in their village.

June 29
G.I. Joe: Retaliation - Bruce Willis and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson pick up arms and do their best to erase the memory of the first G.I. Joe adventure from the minds of every person unlucky enough to have seen it.

God Bless America - Bobcat Goldthwait's scathing indictment of modern America and our inability to communicate with one another that takes potshots at every pop culture target you can imagine, going for blood - quite literally - each and every time.

Madea's Witness Protection - More Madea from writer/director Tyler Perry. Wake me when it's over.

Magic Mike - Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Haywire) takes the true-life tale of Channing Tatum (who was once upon a time a male stripper) and produces this fanciful tale of a sexy, barely-clothed star who tutors a rising talent (Alex Pettyfer) to follow in his footsteps. There is actual Oscar buzz surrounding Matthew McConaughey's supporting performance; I kid you not.

People Like Us - Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks in this true-life story of a somewhat undisciplined playboy who is tasked with delivering $150,000 after his wealthy father's death to the half-sister he never even knew existed. Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Wilde, and Jon Favreau costar.

Polisse - Highly acclaimed French drama concerning the lives and careers of Paris police officers assigned to the bureau's juvenile division.

Brolin makes MIB3 something of a surprise
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

After the abysmal Men in Black II, I can't think of anyone I know who was clamoring for yet another return of Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones). Considering the fact that no one involved with that 2002 flick - not the two stars, nor producer Steven Spielberg, nor director Barry Sonnenfeld - had exactly been breaking down doors to get a third film made, it's probably safe to say they weren't excited about the idea either.

Yet here we are, facing the crystal-clear truth that Men in Black 3 does, indeed, exist. Still based on the comic book by Lowell Cunningham, still directed by Sonnenfeld, still produced by Spielberg, and still starring two actors who could do just about anything they want, one has to imagine Columbia Pictures offered everyone involved a gigantic pile of cash to get this thing into theaters. Either that, or they've got some pretty amazing blackmail on all the main players.

Sarcastic kidding aside, perhaps the 10-year break from this franchise has actually done Sonnenfeld and company some good. While certainly not an essential or memorable film, Men in Black 3 is actually something of a hoot. Etan Cohen's (Tropic Thunder) script manages to fix most of the problems that plagued the last film and return to the devil-may-care yet bizarrely grounded lunacy of the 1997 original, making the finished product surprisingly enjoyable.

Granted, there were numerous other writers (including Jurassic Park scribe David Koepp and Tower Heist impresario Jeff Nathanson) who reportedly worked on this project at one time or another, and the narrative does sometimes bounce around willy-nilly, especially early on, probably because of that. All the same, Cohen is the only writer given credit here, and as such he deserves the kudos for helping produce a finished product that feels self-contained and more or less in control of itself. It may not always make complete sense, but overall the story progression is on solid ground and, considering we're dealing with Star Trek-level time-travel shenanigans here, that's kind of saying something.

Another thing this movie has going for it: Josh Brolin. Pure and simple, casting him as the younger, 1969 pre-moon-launch version of Agent K was total genius. Brolin is Tommy Lee Jones, inhabiting him to such an extent that the effect is borderline eerie. But this isn't a caricature; this isn't some sort of mirror-like impersonation performance piece. The actor delivers a fully formed portrayal that's funny, energetic, exciting, and, most startling of all, emotionally moving. He's not going through the motions here, but investing so much of himself inside the character and the film that the full effect is frankly astonishing.

Can I say the same about Smith and Jones? Well, not entirely, but they're far more invested here than they were in the disastrous second feature. Granted, this time around they actually have something to do, instead of just recycling the gags from the first flick, only bigger and at a higher volume.

As for the plot, the less said the better. Not because I'm worried about spoiling anything - in all honesty there's not a lot to spoil - but more because, much like the first film, the whack-a-do nature of the comedy makes talking about the intricacies of the story mechanics not particularly important. Point A begins where you expect it to, Point B happens like clockwork, and Point C is more or less a foregone conclusion, with no real surprises. What is a shock is just how much fun Men in Black 3 turned out to be, and even though it's a highly unnecessary sequel, that doesn't make the smile on my face after watching it any less real.

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2012 summer movie preview, part II
2012 Summer Movie Preview - Part I
Brolin makes MIB3 something of a surprise

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